The grenache grape is widely planted in many corners of the wine-growing world, most notably in France and Spain but also in Australia and California, and in lesser quantities everywhere from Washington State to Mexico, Chile to South Africa, Israel to Italy, and more.
It is a prolific grape, producing well in warm climates, and as such has often been relegated to workhorse status, providing cheap red wine for blending. But it can also produce wines of extraordinary finesse, full of summer-fruit flavors with a spicy edge. Some of the best Riojas and Châteauneuf-du-Papes are entirely or largely grenache; it adds charm to Australia’s heady “GSM” blends (along with syrah and mourvèdre); and in Spain’s Aragón and Catalonia regions, among others, it consistently produces excellent, enjoyable drinkable wines at prices that are often half or a third of what their quality could demand.
International Grenache Day, always the third Friday of September, was established by the Grenache Association, a French-based organization of winemakers, wine merchants, and other wine professionals as well as just plain grenache connoisseurs. Because the group promotes the production, sales, and, above all, appreciation of grenache — and garnacha (and also cannonau, as it is known in Sardinia) – I’m sure they won’t mind if we celebrate the holiday for now with a few recommendations of wines not from France but from Spain.
Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha 2012 ($12). A dense earthy wine from Calatayud in Aragón, nicely balanced, with subtle oak, and surprisingly easy drinking despite its heft.
Corona de Aragón Special Selection (2013 ($15). An entry from Cariñena in Aragón, half garnacha and half cariñena — the grape that takes its name from this region. Juicy and full, with a touch of smoke and good acidity; very lively and attractive.
Ludovicus Tinto 2012 ($15). From Terra Alta, next to Priorat in Catalonia, a generous, spicy, floral aroma leads into a flavor of ripe red cherries and strawberries, finishing with a tinge of tartness.
Particular Old Vine Garnacha 2013 ($15). A good standard for garnacha from a leading Cariñena producer, with anise and rosemary in the nose, some oak, and plenty of juicy strawberry fruit.
Coto de Hayas Centenaria Garnacha 2013 ($16). A smoky, oaky, full-bodied entry from Campo de Borja, Cariñena’s nearby northern neighbor, with a thick mouth-feel and a finish evoking fresh mint and basil.
Palacios Remondo Propriedad 2011 ($45). A 100-percent garnacha from Rioja, ripe and rich, with plenty of fruit and some wild herb character.